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Skipping meals and shopping sabotages diets

Fasting fattening? Hungry grocery shoppers buy more calories, not more food

Cornell Food & Brand Lab

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IMAGE: This is lead author Aner Tal, Ph.D. view more

Credit: Robyn Wishna

Skipping meals can sabotage your shopping - and your diet, according to a new Cornell study. Even short term food deprivation not only increases overall grocery shopping, but leads shoppers to buy 31% more high calorie foods.

"People skip meals for all sorts of reasons - dieting, fasting, insane schedules that make you forget to eat," says Aner Tal, PhD, from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, lead author of the study. "But it doesn't matter why you skipped a meal, it can still make your nutritionist cry - making you buy more potato chips and ice-cream and less baby carrots and skim milk."

Don't shop hungry!

In one study, 68 meal skippers were either given food (wheat thins) to reduce their fasting-induced hunger or not given any food to keep them hungry following the fast, and then asked to make purchases at a simulated grocery store. The hungry shoppers that did not eat the wheat thins bought 18.6% more food - including 31% more high calorie snacks. At a follow-up study researchers observed late afternoon shoppers at an actual grocery store during the hours between lunch and dinner -the hungriest hours--and the hours just after lunch, when people tend to be satiated. Late-afternoon shoppers purchased fewer low-calorie foods proportionate to their overall purchases, than those shopping after lunch.

The best advice to avoid this from happening? "Make sure you don't skip a meal, or at least have a snack like apples or string cheese in your office," says Brian Wansink PhD, co-author of the paper. "Breakfast is the most skipped meal, and even having something for lunch that has protein will cut your hunger edge."

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